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Barack Obama's 'favorite movies of 2018' list is pretty geeky, but that's no longer nerdy

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Dec 28, 2018

We'll never know if Abraham Lincoln was more of a Marvel or DC kinda guy, but we do know quite a bit about former President Barack Obama's geeky tendencies. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise, then, that Obama put a superhero movie on his list of the best films of 2018 — especially since that movie was Black Panther.

Obama released the list on Friday, and it honestly compares with any list a respected film critic would've released. It's not pompously highbrow, nor is it just big blockbusters, as other titles on the list include Won't You Be My Neighbor, Annihilation, BlacKKKlansman, and Eighth Grade, to name a few. In many ways, though, Black Panther's inclusion feels like a culmination of something — the first true blockbuster superhero movie with a black lead and cast selected by America's first black president. It's also fitting because Obama indulges in a lot of popular geeky interests.

Obama didn't include a listing of his top films in 2017's list, which only included his favorite songs and books. Because of this, we don't have a concrete way of knowing if he would've put something like Wonder Woman or Logan on his list, but Obama has offered up other, more evergreen listings of his favorite comics or genre films. As a kid, he read comics like Conan the Barbarian and Spider-Man, according to a statement he made in a 2015 email to supporters. (As an adult, he would famously grace the cover of an iconic Spider-Man issue and appeared as a character in the Marvel comics universe.)

The list goes on. Obama made references to Mad Magazine and his own Alfred E. Neuman-like ears, and cracked a joke about being born on Krypton during the 2008 campaign. The former president is also a Trekkie, enjoys Star Wars, and got advanced screeners of Game of Thrones, because you can do that when you're the president, apparently.

There's an often overlooked narrative hidden in the discussion of Obama's geek credentials, however. Nobody is going to argue that Obama doesn't have a geek side — it's just that being a geek isn't rare anymore. Look at the highest-grossing movies every year for proof that superheroes and science fiction are massively popular. Liking Star Wars doesn't make you a special paragon of geekdom — it just means you're a moviegoer.

In this light, Black Panther's appearance on Obama's list makes even more sense, if anything. Yeah, Obama has a comics background, yeah he likes superheroes, but Black Panther didn't make the cut because Obama is a die-hard geek. Black Panther, which is a serious contender for a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, is a legitimately great film. The importance of representation can't be overstated, as Michelle Obama noted back when Black Panther first came out in February.

That inspirational nature, his own history with comics, and his wife's endorsement all probably contributed to Black Panther's spot on the list, but so does the quality of the film, straight up. It's a fantastic movie, with incredible acting, cinematography, music, and writing. Obama's list is clearly that of a man with good taste, so of course Black Panther belongs on it.

Now, by that same logic, we have to assume that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn't on Obama's list because he hasn't gotten around to seeing it yet.

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